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Smoking Jerky

smokehouse_1A good, smokey-flavored jerky is always a favorite of those who eat jerky. And while this flavor can be infused by using a ‘smoke flavored’  ingredient in the marinade, another way to achieve this woodsy taste is to smoke the jerky outdoors over wood chips rather than using a dehydrator indoors.

While this outdoor process will most likely require more attention rather than merely setting a dehydrator and coming back later, for those willing to take the time, the results can be simply delicious.


Wood Chips

The flavor will depend on both the marinade and the type of wood chips used, i.e., hickory, pecan, oak, mesquite, etc.   (Visit this link to read more about wood chips, as all woods are not safe  . . . some are toxic.)


offsetBBQSmokerWhen smoking jerky over charcoal and wood chips,  the preparation method is basically the same – lean meat, trimmed of fat, marinated –  with the exception of adding in a ‘smoke flavor’ to the marinade.



Before purchasing any smoker for making jerky, consider the frequency of making jerky, the amount of jerky to be made each time, and the possible use of the smoker to smoke (or BBQ) other foods like:

  • Sausage
  • Hams
  • Turkey, Chicken
  • Brisket
  • Ribs

The amount of jerky to be smoked will depend on the size and type of smoker required. Some use home-built wooden smokers that look like small buildings* –  while others use purchased ones. These manufactured smokers can range in size  from large to small;  charcoal  to propane, fancy to plain.

* It should be noted that if using a free-standing smokehouse-type building, due diligence  should be performed on how to effectively deliver the smoke to the meat as well as how to maintain a constant temperature for drying.



biggreenegg_aniMost home BBQs can be adapted to smoke jerky by using the offset method  or if you already have a smoker like the   Big Green Egg, you’re ready to go.  The following  link is to an alternate smoker similar to BGE (lower price) – Char-Griller 06620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, Red.



To see a variety of smokers & accessories available on Amazon, please visit this link.



More Jerky Basics – Measuring & Drying

Making jerky isn’t rocket science but care should be taken when making homemade jerky including marinades, seasonings, cures, etc.[1]


Most pre-packaged marinades, seasonings, cures, etc. will come with manufacturers directions on how much to use for set amounts of meat. These directions should always be followed.


Some other things to think about when making homemade jerky are:

  • Weigh the finished, trimmed cut strips or ground meat to be used so that the correct amount of marinade, seasoning, cure, etc. are used.  (Store any unused seasonings in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Do not re-use marinades.)
  • Be sure you have good measuring tools and that measurements are level – not heaped or packed down. Also,  ‘fluff’ the ingredients, seasonings before measuring.
  • marinatorFollow recommended ‘cure’ time for pre-packaged seasonings. For example, Hi Mountain Jerky Cure & Seasoning is formulated to work at 1/4 inch per 24 hours.  If the meat is thicker, or if you are making jerky cubes, you would increase this time.
  • If you are short on time to marinate your jerky or if you marinate a lot of different types of food, check out this vacuum marinator by STX.  Cuts the time significantly.


To read more information about the vacuum marinator,  visit this link:   STX International STX-1000-CE Chef’s Elite 15 Minute Meat & Vegetable Vacuum Marinator with Auto Shut Off and Free Meat Tenderizer










A couple  of basic rules to follow before drying your jerky (home oven, dehydrator, or smoker) are:


  • Place marinated (or dry-rub) strips on paper toweling or pat dry before placing in the dehydrator or oven.
  • If making jerky in your home oven, place the jerky on jerky racks over a ‘cookie’ sheet  – or line the oven with aluminum foil –  to help with clean-up.





To see the Bradley Set of 4 Jerky Racks pictured to the right, please visit this link.



jerky_hanging_in_ovenNote: If you are on a tight budget, jerky can also be dried in a home oven by placing toothpicks (or bamboo skewers) through one end of the strip and hanging  it  through the existing oven rack.  Be sure you have the oven rack on the highest level so your jerky strips do not touch the bottom of the oven.  This  is especially necessary if you are using an electric oven.  Place the other rack at the lowest setting and use a cookie sheet to catch the drips – or place aluminum foil on the bottom of  the oven.


Final thought, if you are a first-time jerky maker,  unsure of the flavor you are using, or  texture of the jerky you are making, take a piece out and taste-test it frequently.  ( Do not eat raw, marinated jerky strips or sticks )



[1] The Complete Jerky Book